Local historian Keith Johnson looks back at a disturbing double death that leaves nothing to the imagination...
The little village of Forton, near Garstang, in the first week of October 1858 was the scene of an appalling tragedy involving the death of two young people.
At the centre of the tragedy was a young man called Robert Bond, aged 25, of very respectable parents and of superior education who had been living at Richmond Grove, Forton, the residence of his father Mr. Nathaniel Calvert Bond, a retired spirits merchant.
For some time Robert had been paying attention to a Miss Mary Hannah Wainman who lived with her family in a farmhouse that adjoined Richmond Grove. The young lady was not keen on his attention and when he made improper overtures she shunned him.
On the last Thursday of September his parents left Richmond Grove in the care of Alice Proctor, a domestic servant, to stay with friends in Liverpool, arranging for their son to stay with his grandmother in Pilling. Taking advantage of his parents absence, Robert was a frequent visitor to Richmond Grove and on the following Monday night he stayed over. A friend from
Liverpool then visited and the pair went on a shooting excursion that ended in drunken debauchery. Such was Bond’s conduct that in disgust his friend quickly retreated back to Liverpool.
Roberts behaviour inducing the Wainman family to communicate with his parents upon the situation.
On the Monday he had placed a loaded gun under a sofa in one of the rooms of Richmond Grove, and John Wainman fearing that some accident might result from a loaded weapon being left in such a place took possession of it. It was an action that annoyed Robert Bond when he became aware of it after returning from a night spent at his grandmother’s in Pilling.
At one o’clock the next day he went to the Wainman’s house and demanded that the servant Grace Bretherton hand over the weapon, she declined and a disgruntled Robert Bond went away, remarking “that he had got another gun, and would make her deliver up”.
Robert returned to Richmond Grove and Alice Proctor saw him enter the kitchen and then descend into the cellar. Within a couple of minutes he was back in the kitchen loading a gun, and then he stood at the kitchen door with the weapon.
At this moment Miss Wainman came into view at the back door of her family’s house and Bond raised his gun up to his shoulder, took deliberate aim and shot her. The firing of the weapon alerted her brother James who found her lying on her left side, near the back door, bleeding copiously from a facial wound. He immediately ran for assistance to the home of a farmer called Whitehead, and then onto the police station.
In the interval, James Myerscough, a Cockerham butcher, who was travelling along the road and heard the groans of the victim assisted others in moving her in doors. The unfortunate girl lingering on the verge of death for close to two hours before her suffering ended.
As her life was ebbing away her killer was in the act of self-destruction at Richmond Grove. After discharging his weapon Bond had rushed back indoors. Some time later Myerscough and his son entered Richmond Grove and there in the sitting room was the lifeless body of Bond slumped in a chair, the fatal weapon between his knees, the muzzle towards his chest.
On the floor of the room were fragments of his skull, scattered around like the debris of a coconut shell, while the ceiling of the room was bespattered with the brains of the murderer.
An inquest was held at Richmond Grove within a couple of days and the villagers of Forton were still in a state of shock as details of the horrific crime emerged. After the lengthy proceedings came to a close the inquest jury returned a verdict – ‘That Bond killed Mary Hannah Wainman, and then killed himself, whilst in a state of temporary insanity.’
Robert Bond was buried in the family grave at Cockerham Church on the following Sunday with little ceremony, and Mary Hannah Wainmen was buried at Thurnham R.C. Church after a sorrowful ceremony.